Using Thought Leadership content to support the sales cycle

May 9, 2011 4 Comments

Many large organizations have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars on digital asset management systems that are supposed to help them inventory, sort, manage and deliver their marketing content. The goal is to make it easier for salespeople to take advantage of these content assets in day to day selling situations.  In concept this is a great idea.  However, we have seen in many cases these organizations are simply buying a filing cabinet but have no folders or files to put in it.  Sadly, organizations wait until after they have deployed these expensive marketing content management systems to take a look at their actual marketing content.  When they do, they usually find a pretty sad mess.

  • Their marketing content does not support most steps of the selling process
  • The marketing content does not help them open doors, or make repeat calls
  • The marketing content is not tagged or customized to address the specific customer segments
  • The marketing content is largely focused on products not customer needs
  • The marketing content includes very little advisory or educational content.

Candyce Edelen, CEO and Founder of PropelGrowth wrote and excellent article about using Thought Leadership Content to Support the Entire Buying Cycle. In it, she raises several issues that hamper most sales and marketing organizations:

  • Marketing content strategies are generally divorced from sales process strategy and any thought leadership agenda.
  • What little advisory content they have is purchased from third party sources and neither original nor differentiated
  • Most of this content does not directly support the steps of the business cycle.

Candyce gives one very practical and important piece of advice to organizations who want to stop wasting money on marketing content and collateral:

As you plan your budgets for 2011, I strongly urge you to do a content audit – figure out what you have that supports each stage of the buyer process, and budget for new content to fill out the stages. Look at this post on buyer personas to make sure the content is also relevant to the individual member of the decision committee,

At Profitable Channels we call this a Sales Process Enablement Roadmap. This is a “gap analysis” that tells you how well your existing sales and marketing content enables a meaningful customer dialog throughout the buying cycle, not just in the first meeting.

Conducting this mapping exercise will help you identify where you need to create thought leadership content, resources and  tools that will enable your sales process and support more meaningful sales calls.  To identify the thought leadership assets that can improve your particular sales process the most:

  1. Outline your customer engagement process from initial impression all the way through relationship development.  This will give you a picture of the sales experience from the customer’s viewpoint, and identify how and where your different sales resources interact with customers and prospects at every step of the process.
  2. Brainstorm where better selling content would make the sales experience more engaging, compelling and valuable to your customers.  For example, selling content could include either compelling “you should know” sales calls, proprietary insights and ideas conveyed in research reports, a well-placed cross selling conversation or a customer education event, case study or webcast.  Rank the places where the content gaps are the greatest or the opportunity to enhance the customer experience is significant.
  3. Starting with your biggest opportunity to improve sales value and effectiveness, define specific thought leadership content assets.  Your overall thought leadership strategy should help keep these ideas directly aligned with your business goals, messaging priorities and sales model.

This exercise will help you define the highest return tools and selling content that will actually make a difference by identifying where and how they enable your sales process and support meaningful sales calls.

About the Author:

Stephen Diorio is an established authority in growth and go-to-market innovation with over 25 years of experience helping CEOs, Boards, and CMOs create new growth and enterprise value by leveraging advanced marketing practices and digital technology. He is the lead analyst in the Forbes Marketing Accountability Initiative and a Partner in Profitable Channels where he helps CEOs, Boards and CMOs create new growth and enterprise value by leveraging advanced marketing practices and digital technology. I've helped hundreds of marketing leaders take advantage of the most current marketing best practices and digital technology to grow faster, differentiate their customer experience, and reduce selling costs. He has helped over one hundred leading sales organizations drive net new growth—including Merrill Lynch, Intuit, Armstrong, American Express, CBS, DuPont, IBM, Janus Funds, Morgan Stanley, Ricoh, SunTrust Bank, Staples, UPS, and US Bank. He a Director of the Brand Publishing Institute, and Author of Beyond e: 12 Ways Technology Will Transform Sales & Marketing Strategy (McGraw-Hill). Mr. Diorio holds an MBA in Marketing from the University of Chicago and a B.S. in Engineering from Bucknell University.

Comments (4)

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  1. Thanks for citing my post. I wholeheartedly agree with you about the importance of content mapping and delivering resources to the customer that help them navigate through the full buying cycle including post sale. These are tools that sales teams desperately need in order to maximize their selling time. Marketers need to spend less time on feature/benefit collateral and more time understanding the customers’ business problems. The best way to do that is to get out and talk to the customers. Here’s an interesting article I came across today.

    For more info on writing content for specific buyer personas, here is a link to my blog:

  2. We recently published a new white paper on the topic of using thought leadership to support sales throughout the customer’s buying process. You can download it here:

  3. Im not sure exactly why as the whole point of lead nurturing is to extend the initial attention youve caught across the buying process until the prospect is in a sales-ready state.People talk about the components of nurturing email campaigns messaging content even touch frequency and reaching deeper across potential customer companies and more. And marketing must have established higher levels of credibility for their companies than ever before during the pre-sales process.Lets face it content marketing is a big deal. As more and more companies embrace the power of content marketing and create better more customer-focused content its going to become more challenging to stand out.

  4. ..Content marketing services from Ethos Content are strategically crafted and implemented to help our clients engage with their potential customers. By creating such engaging content and delivering it in a manner that is easy to access and share Ethos Content helps companies redefine the way they connect with customers enhance lead generation and build brand……..The ease with which information is now disseminated means that B2C and B2B buyers are increasingly well-informed when they make purchasing decisions. If you fail to deliver marketing content that is relevant to that decision making process your company is losing out……

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